John Vincent Hurt, English actor. 1940 - date

Mention John Hurt to most people, and they'll say, "Cool! The guy from 'Alien' who got killed when the alien bust out his chest!" John is much bigger than that: 'I, Claudius', 'The Elephant Man' and 'The Naked Civil Servant' - all these are to his credit, and more besides.

He was born on 22nd January 1940 in the Derbyshire town of Shirebrook, into a Victorian regime run by his clergyman father. His childhood was an unhappy one, denied social contact with his 'inferiors', hating school and wishing he was permitted to go to the cinema.

His love of drama was his only release from tedium - he saw Alec Guiness in David Lean's production of Oliver, and it touched something inside him, which he followed up in a school production of The Bluebird. "I was in the place I was meant to be", he recalls.

After his parents moved to Grimsby, he was sent to a boarding school at Lincoln, from where his mother took him to the theatre. Following this, he went to art school, and in 1959 he won a scholarship to St. Martin's College of Art and Design in London, and rented a studio, but still burned with the desire to act.

His acting career

Gaining yet another scholarship, this time to RADA, he threw himself into acting, the theatre and films. In 1962 he landed a role in Infanticide In The House Of Fred Ginger, as well as making an appearance in the film The Wild And The Willing, and later joined the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), and his career began to really move. In 1966, he was spotted by Fred Zimmerman, who cast him in the role of Richard Rich in his A Man For All Seasons, the story of Thomas More.

He continued to play in the theatre, and always enjoyed Shakespearian roles, but was always ready to take TV or film, and is well-known for his portayal of Quentin Crisp in the BBC's The Naked Civil Servant.

His voice seems to be the one thing which distinguishes him - the memorable and moving performance of The Elephant Man highlights his extraordinary ability to make his voice tell the character's tale, and draws the audience into his role. As a result, he has done a lot as a voice actor, notably in Watership Down and Lord of the Rings, in addition to many narrations. He has also recorded many talking books, and was a great contributor to the early AIDS campaigns in the late '80s.

Haunted by childhood sorrow and unhappiness, several failed marriages and the loss of his long-time partner Marie-Lise Volpeliere-Pierrot, he turned to the bottle, and he seems to bring so much of his anguish to his screen portrayals, playing characters who are often flawed in some way, or lead tragic lives (think of Winston Smith in 1984).

A prolific and talented actor and tireless charity worker, he continues to work his particular magic on his every role. Long may he continue to do so.


Miranda (2002)
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001)
Crime And Punishment (2000)
Krapp's Last Tape (TV) (2000)
The Tigger Movie (narrator) (2000)
Lost Souls (1999)
New Blood (1999)
Watership Down (voice, TV) (1999)
If...Dog...Rabbit (1999)
All The Little Animals (1998)
You're Dead (1998)
Night Train (1998)
The Commissioner (1998)
The Climb (1997)
Contact (1997)
Love And Death On Long Island (1997)
Tender Loving Care (1997)
Bandyta (1997)
Privateer 2: The Darkening (1996)
Dead Man (1995)
Rob Roy (1995)
Wild Bill (1995)
Prisoners In Time (TV) (1995)
Saigon Baby (1995)
Two Nudes Bathing (1995)
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues (1994)
Second Best (1994)
Thumbelina (voice) (1994)
Betrayal (voice) (1994)
Monolith (1993)
Shades Of Fear (TV) (1993)
Dark At Noon (1992)
Six Characters In Search Of An Author (1992)
Lapse Of Memory (1992)
King Ralph (1991)
Red Fox (TV miniseries) (1991)
I Dreamt I Woke Up (1991)
The Field (1990)
Frankenstein Unbound (1990)
Little Sweetheart (1990)
Romeo-Juliet (1990)
Resident Alien (as himself, TV) (1990)
The Investigation (TV) (1990)
Scandal (1989)
Aria (1988)
Deadline (1988)
White Mischief (1988)
La Nuit Bengali (1988)
Poison Candy (1988)
The Storyteller (TV series) (1987)
Vincent (voice) (1987)
The Hunting Of The Snark (narrator) (1987)
Spaceballs (1987)
Rocinante (1987)
From The Hip (1986)
Jake Speed (1986)
After Darkness (1985)
The Black Cauldron (voice) (1985)
The Hit (1985)
King Lear (TV) (1984)
Champions (1984)
1984 (1984)
Success Is The Best Revenge (1984)
The Osterman Weekend (1983)
Partners (1982)
The Plague Dogs (voice) (1982)
Disappearance (1981)
Heaven's Gate (1981)
History Of The World Part 1 (1981)
Night Crossing (1981)
The Elephant Man (1980)
Crime And Punishment (TV series) (1979)
Alien (1979)
The Lord Of The Rings (voice) (1978)
Watership Down (voice) (1978)
Midnight Express (1978)
The Shout (1978)
Spectre (TV) (1977)
East Of Elephant Rock (1976)
I, Claudius (TV series) (1976)
The Peddler (TV) (1976)
The Ghoul (1975)
La Linea Del Fiume (1975)
The Naked Civil Servant (1975)
Little Malcolm (1974)
A Tragedy Of Two Ambitions (TV) (1973)
The Pied Piper (1972)
Mr Forbush And The Penguins (1971)
10 Rillington Place (1971)
In Search Of Gregory (1969)
Before Winter Comes (1969)
Sinful Davey (1969)
The Sailor From Gibraltar (1967)
A Man For All Seasons (1966)
Gideon's Way (TV) (1965)
The Wild And The Willing (1962)

Editors Note: John Hurt died at his home January 25, 2017, three days after his 77th birthday. no cause of death has yet been announced.

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